Maralinga survivors in last bid for justice

Maralinga nuclear testing veteran Alan Batchelor with a box of evidence related to the case.
Maralinga nuclear testing veteran Alan Batchelor with a box of evidence related to the case.

SIXTY-ONE years after servicemen were deliberately exposed to the fury of nuclear bomb testing at Maralinga, their lawyers are seeking a desperate intervention by the Australian Human Rights Commission on behalf of 295 survivors.

It could be the men's last chance for justice.

Joshua Dale, a human rights law specialist at Stacks/Goudkamp in Sydney, said the group would ask the commission to rule that Australia breached the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by allowing the men to be exposed to radiation despite knowing the dangers.

"We hope the AHRC will examine the case and recommend to the government that it right the wrongs that have been done to these people over decades, and provide compensation and the gold card for medical assistance,'' Mr Dale said.

Alan Batchelor, now 82, spent six months at the Maralinga site in South Australia as a lieutenant and second-in-charge of an engineer group of 83.

''Most of the people who were in that engineer group are dead now,'' he said.

Age was not the only thing that wearied them: a report commissioned by the government and released in 2006 showed those working at the Maralinga and Emu Field testing sites were 23 per cent more likely than the general population to develop cancer, and 18 per cent more likely to die from cancer.

But it concluded it was impossible to conclude whether that was due to the men's exposure to radiation.

Before his posting to Maralinga, Mr Batchelor and his wife had a healthy child.

A year after his return his wife miscarried a badly deformed foetus, his submission to the human rights commission states.

''Mr Batchelor was then sterile for about nine years. He then had two more children, one of which is healthy but one of which has had problems with depression, gastro-intestinal problems and missing/deformed teeth.''

He has since developed myasthenia gravis, an auto-immune disorder.

This story Maralinga survivors in last bid for justice first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.